10 Biggest Resume Mistakes to Avoid for a Successful Job Search
When it comes to crafting a stellar resume, there are several pitfalls many people fall victim to.
But if you’re reading this article, that will absolutely not be you.
Some common mistakes we say day in and day out include failing to tailor your resume to the specific job you're applying for, including irrelevant or outdated information, and missing typos and grammatical errors.
In this article, we’ll dive into all of those, and more, while providing tips on how to avoid each one.
By steering clear of each of these common mistakes, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job.
What is a resume?
A resume is a document that summarizes your professional experience, education, and skills. It's often the first point of contact between you and a potential employer, so it's important to make a great first impression.
Think of your resume as a marketing tool that showcases your unique value proposition and highlights your relevant accomplishments. A resume aims to grab the reader's attention and convince them that you're the perfect candidate for the job. Whether you're a recent grad or a seasoned professional, a well-written resume can help open doors and pave the way to a fulfilling career.
Check out our article on how to make a resume if you want to learn more about resume creation and get tips to help you execute your resume creation flawlessly.
What makes a good resume?
The 2018 Ladders study found that job seekers with top-performing resumes (i.e., resumes where recruiters spent the most time and focus) tended to have many of the same things in common:
- Clear, simple layouts with clearly marked section and title headers. Recruiters in the study spent more time focusing on job titles than on any other element.
- Layouts that took advantage of F-pattern and E-pattern reading tendencies (e.g. bold job titles supported by bullet point accomplishments).
- A short professional bio at the top of the first page of the resume. (But not a career objective—it's implied that your goal is to land this particular job!)
- Clear fonts, such as Poppins, Helvetica, or even Times New Roman.
- Wide enough margins and sufficient white space so that the content doesn’t feel crammed or cluttered.
- Resume keywords presented in context (vs. keyword stuffing, in which applicants try to fit as many keywords as possible into their resume, but not necessarily in a strategic way).
What are the most common resume mistakes?
Do you have your contact information listed clearly at the top of your resume? If not, be sure to add it. All you need is city and state—no need to include a full street address or zip code.
You should also add a professional email address and phone number, as well as your optimized LinkedIn profile. A personal website or portfolio is also a great addition. If you're updating an older resume, make sure you include the correct contact information.
We recommend formatting your LinkedIn URL like this:
linkedin.com/in/yourname (instead of the word “LinkedIn” linking out to your profile.) If the link breaks somehow along the way, the recruiter can still copy/paste your URL right into LinkedIn.
Spelling and grammar mistakes
Spelling and grammar mistakes on your resume can, unfortunately, take you out of the running for a job.
Scan your resume to check for spelling, grammar, and style inconsistencies. Is your punctuation consistent throughout? Did you spell and style your past company's name correctly? Always double-check your resume for spelling and grammar errors before sending it to a hiring manager.
You can also utilize free tools like Grammarly that will check grammar and spelling errors for you.
To help you with the review process, take a look at these resume editing tips.
Including a career objective
One of the easiest resume mistakes to make is including a career objective.
Many hiring managers today view career objective sections as outdated and even unnecessary. It's implied that your objective is to land the job that you're applying for, so there's no need to explain that in further detail.
Career objectives also take up valuable space on your resume. You can use that space instead to talk about your past positions or skills in more detail, which will be more helpful to a hiring manager.
Not including a target title
In a competitive job market, not including a target title can hurt your chances of being hired.
The target title on your resume, like your keywords, helps both hiring managers and applicant tracking software (ATS) understand what kind of new job you're looking to fill.
For example, let’s say you’re applying for a social media manager role. On your resume, you would put your name at the very top, followed by “Social Media Manager,” or even “Social Media Marketing Manager,” “Social Media Expert,” or “Social Strategist” as your target title.
However, if you put “Financial Analyst” or “Customer Support Associate” instead, you’re not projecting to the recruiter that you’re a qualified job candidate—or that you researched what the job responsibilities entail.
When including a target title, ensure that it matches as closely to the job description as possible.
Here are 23 examples of marketing manager resumes that nail the target title.
Not including a professional summary
It's no secret that hiring professionals spend only about six or seven seconds reading resumes. Including a professional summary at the top of your resume is a powerful and effective way to grab a potential employer's attention.
Your professional summary should:
- Be about 3-5 sentences long
- Briefly list your positive attributes
- Mention your current job title and/or experience
- Include success metrics that are relevant to the role you're applying for
- Explain how you plan to help your next company
To build on the social media manager example, here's what a potential summary could look like for this role:
Self-motivated and detail-oriented social media manager with 3+ years of creating best-in-class content at major beauty brands. Grew organic engagement at Beauty Company Y by 50% year over year and pioneered the brand's pivot to TikTok. Eager to help Beauty Company Z with building a robust video content calendar and UGC creator program.
Not sure how to write a solid professional summary for your current resume? Free AI tools like Teal’s AI Resume Builder can save you time by writing one for you. Use Teal to instantly generate a summary that is customized with the job you’re applying for and your work experience in mind, and then edit it or regenerate it until you have one you’re happy with.
Incorporating too many creative elements
Including creative elements can be a fun and clever way to show your skills and dedication to a role or company, but too many elements can be overwhelming.
We recommend you steer clear of elements like:
- Hard-to-read fonts
- Uncommon margin sizes
- Low-contrast color combinations
- Unconventional layouts
While these can add character to your resume, they can also be distracting and hard for both hiring managers and applicant tracking systems to parse.
If you're not sure how to design your resume, you can use Teal's free templates in the AI Resume Builder. Each template will make your resume ATS-friendly and easy to read, and they're suitable for any industry or level.
For more detailed guidance, we also have a beneficial resource on the the best resume format to use in 2023.
The keywords in your work history, skills, and summary have to, at the very least, resemble the job duties for the role you’re applying for. Irrelevant keywords won't paint a clear picture as to why a recruiter should hire you over other applicants.
This is one of the most important resume mistakes to avoid.
Here's an example.
Let’s say you’re applying for the aforementioned social media manager role. If your past experience shows positions in customer support, retail, and sales but doesn’t mention social media or marketing, it’s going to be hard for a recruiter or hiring manager to understand why you would be a top candidate.
We always suggest being honest on your resume and never lying about past experiences. That said, there may be ways to frame or adjust the titles you’ve held for past roles to incorporate your target job title. Maybe you were a community manager and a social media ambassador for the company; you could call that out instead. It's your job to market yourself and make it obvious to the company why you're a great fit.
If you're taking a class, workshop, boot camp, or getting a certification in the area you're transitioning into, incorporate that into your education, skills, or certification section so that the keywords are included.
We often get asked by our members how to include keywords on your resume if you’re a fresh graduate or if you're making a career pivot and don’t yet have experience.
While there’s no hard and fast rule about it, we recommend looking at the job description, using keyword matching, and identifying the transferable skills that you have experience with. Our AI Resume Builder makes this process very straightforward.
We also have an excellent resource on how to create a resume as a student.
Missing hard skills
One of the biggest resume mistakes you can make is not including hard skills. If the company goes out of its way to call out hard skills or proficiency with certain software, make sure those same relevant skills exist in your resume. They don’t have to match perfectly, but it shouldn't be a complete gap.
For instance, if you have experience with a CRM and the job listing specifically mentions Salesforce and HubSpot, you want to include those exact titles on your resume. Not including them runs the risk of having your resume deprioritized by applicant tracking software.
But how can you determine what those exact hard skills are? One way is to save the job description in your Teal Job Application Tracker and look at the highlighted keywords. Within the resume checker, you’ll see the top five hard skills that you should include on your resume to increase your chances of getting an interview.
Additionally, you can find the most important hard skills by position in our collection of over 500 resume examples.
Meeting most of the job requirements
You don’t have to match 100% of the requirements for a job—if you do, you’re probably over-qualified—but generally speaking, you want to aim to apply for roles where you meet 70-80% of the requirements.
“For those women who have not been applying for jobs because they believe the stated qualifications must be met, the statistic is a wake-up call that not everyone is playing the game that way. When those women know others are giving it a shot even when they don’t meet the job criteria, they feel free to do the same.”
We want to encourage a job search culture where more people feel comfortable submitting around the 70% qualified mark—but at the same time, your resume has to reflect that you meet at least the basic requirements listed in the job posting. That's why we recommend tailoring each resume to the job description instead of submitting the same resume for each job application.
Before applying, review those job requirements—they’re generally sorted in order of priority—and ask yourself if you’re close enough. If so, shoot your shot!
Making your resume too long
Your resume doesn't need to be long to be impactful. In fact, the shorter, the better. If you have fewer than ten years of experience or are switching career paths, we recommend keeping your resume to one page.
A shorter resume is easier to scan and also forces you to narrow in on the most important skills and details from your career. Recruiters read dozens of resumes from job candidates day in and day out, so keeping it shorter allows them to spend an appropriate amount of time looking through your materials.
If you have ten years of experience or more, you can consider making your resume two pages. But be mindful of everything you decide to include—remember to only focus on your most relevant experience.
Use Teal to Create and Enhance a Resume You’re Proud of
By avoiding each of these common resume mistakes, you'll be well on your way to making a resume that gets you further through the hiring process.
Making a resume you're proud of is even easier with Teal. Our AI Resume Builder helps ensure you avoid the top resume mistakes by giving you the ability to:
- Format your resume perfectly with just a few clicks
- Generate personalized professional summaries, cover letters, and resume bullet points in seconds with AI
- Match your resume to aligned job descriptions
- Create and export unlimited free resumes
Work smarter to stand out from other candidates with Teal. Sign up for free to take better control of your job search and career path.